My Dogs Ate My Reader  

Sunday, November 30, 2008

No reader today. I'll combine the reader items I have tagged from this week with next week.

I'm still sick. I feel, well, disgusting. I won't even go into it.

It's snowing. It's been snowing since last night and I can't even get excited about it.

Here are a couple of pictures of the floppy dogs from Thanksgiving to tide you over.





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Happy Thanksgiving!  

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The turkey is wrapped and ready to go. The potatoes are mashed. The stuffing is baked (though not browned yet), the casseroles are done, and the wine is spiced. The gravy is in the crockpot getting thick and we're about to take off for Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful though for my family, my in-laws, and my husband. I'm thankful that during this time when people are worried about the future, we still have plenty. I'm thankful for good friends and good food. The only thing I'm not thankful about is that somehow yesterday I developed a cold.

I hope you all have a great day, wherever you are, whether you're celebrating or not.

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Six Things Meme  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chappy has tagged me with the Six Things Meme.

These are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random, arbitrary things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

#1 & 2 are done. On to the rest.

1. I love making the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I've never had a turkey that's as good as a home-cooked turkey. You cannot get turkey that isn't processed unless you make it yourself, at least I've never found any. I only make it at Thanksgiving and occasionally Christmas because with two people in the house, there's too much to eat. So I prefer to make it and take it over to someone's place to share.

2. I still bite my fingernails. I've tried to stop for 20 years.

3. I don't have a favorite food or favorite color. In fact, I find it difficult to pick a favorite of anything. My tastes change too often.

4. I do have a favorite flower though, and it's stock.

5. I'm the youngest of four, by many years. I used to get picked on for being too young. Now I can pick on them for being old.

6. My university gave me foreign language credit for taking classes in programming languages. I took one year of Spanish in junior high school. I always wished I was more proficient in at least one more language, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it.

In accordance with rule 4, I am tagging the following people:

Mamacita Chilena

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Mechanically Inclined?  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I found this test on Toniya's blog. I am also not convinced, but it's kind of fun. What does it say about your blog?

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A Week of Sun November 18 - 23, 2008  

I wasn't very happy with the way most of the photos turned out this week, but some of them aren't too bad. #3, 5, and 9 are my favorites.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Last Tuesday was an anniversary for my husband and I. It was the date four years ago when he proposed to me. It's also the birthday of one of my best friends, which is why I actually remember the date.

Another friend also reminded me this year that it was also the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown deaths. Thanks, dude. Way to go ruining one of my favorite days of the year.

I'm old enough to remember Jonestown. I was pretty young when it happened, but I know it was a big blow to the religious community my family belonged to. Although Jim Jones had been completely discredited by the time of the deaths, his movement, always viewed as somewhat eccentric, was seen in a good light by the charismatics. Here was a man who was making things happen in the name of God.

And even now, watching the documentary there are many positive things that he and his followers did. I find it sad that a movement, which could have been positive and peaceful, ended up being such a tragedy.

It was earlier in 1978 that my parents moved to North Carolina to join the movement of another Jim. Fortunately Jim Bakker never called on his followers to give up their lives. I never thought of PTL as a cult, but as I was watching the video of Jonestown I noticed many parallels between the two movements. Both men exhibited an extreme paranoia of the government and an ego maniacal sense of godhood. Both wanted to build an empire.

But for all I reject the teachings of the community, PTL was still a positive experience for me. People worked hard, often many hours without sleeping to make sure everything was perfect for Jim. Yet, for the most part we were happy. We were a community pursuing the same purpose. Parents felt safe about having their children there.

I think that there must have been an underlying sense that something wasn't quite right. How many people really questioned what we were doing? I know my mother had questions, but we stayed in the community. We continued as if nothing would ever change.

How many people at Jonestown felt the same way?

I guess I'll never know how far I would have gone in the name of religion. My gut reaction is that I would have never gone so far as to harm myself or my friends or family. But what makes a community turn from productive and happy to paranoid and deadly?

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Quiz: What Kind of Girl Am I?  

You are a Career Girl!

You may not be a CEO yet, but you're well on your way to success. You take your career seriously, and you wouldn't stop working for any guy! An independent woman, you pay for your own car, clothes, and housing. And men appreciate that - at least, the ones as driven as you are.

Yeah, I don't see it.

Danielle Steele? That's not real reading.

(via The Greenbelt)

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This Weeks Reader November 23, 2008  

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Anticrepuscular Rays Over Colorado

Civil Rights
Conservative, Strict-Constructionist Judiciary
Even though the courts may issues rulings with which I do not agree, I am pleased that our judicial system recognizes that society progresses and evolves and that laws need to be understood afresh within that changing context. Though we hold our Founding Fathers in respect, a dynamic view of the judiciary recognizes that their views and writings are not divine writ. They may have been insightful, but they did not envision our contemporary society with its plethora of issues, nor are their views without flaws that subsequent generations have had to address. They themselves understood this, which is why they build an amendment process into the Constitution. I am pleased with a dynamic posture of the judiciary, for a fixed view of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is not justice. A static posture is blind legalism which, as the decades pass, creates an unjust judicial system that lacks wisdom and fairness.

Spore designer promotes used games, doesn't mention EA's DRM
I had a remarkably similar reaction to reading this article about why used game sales are a good thing on Soren Johnson's Game Design Journal. He makes many good points: GameStop is a part of this industry, and having specialty game retailers is a good thing, more people buying games means more people are playing games, and people who buy used games may buy new games in the future. Good man, these are things I like to hear from the industry; if you buy a new game you should be able to sell it, and if someone wants to put a game on eBay or sell it to GameStop they should have that power. You're preaching to the choir, and it's good to see someone in the industry stand up for consumers. Who is this Soren Johnson guy, anyway?

Yeah, he works for EA Maxis. He was a designer/programmer on Spore.

'Playing Gods' satirizes religious violence
A typical steely grey wrath card would "Bring down the Darkness: Kill two sects," while a sunny yellow conversion card recalls Elijah's showdown with a priest of Baal in the Bible (1 Kings 18:38). "Another god's follower challenges you to prove you exist; you fry him with lightening in front of a crowd. Gain one sect."

Is It Historic Because He’s Black?
I asked my mom about this.

“What’s so historical about electing Barack Obama President of the United States?”

In a hushed voice, she answered, “Don’t you know he’s black?”

“Yes, Mom. I know he’s black. That doesn’t answer the question.”

Or does it?

Obama Isn't a Citizen!
So here's the deal, you pus-brained paranoiacs: You are the true enemies of America. This country is founded on democracy and the rule of law. You are undermining both of those right now, and that makes you an enemy of my country. That makes you my sworn enemy as well, because I have in fact taken an oath to defend my country and its Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I for one am sick of your bullshit, and especially your pretense at being "real America" while you relentlessly attack our Constitution's guarantees of freedom, equality, democracy, and the rule of law. So please shut the fuck up right now. About 7 years ago I demanded my money back from a benefit concert I went to because the person in charge felt the need to announce that "George Bush is not my president." I hated it when liberals did it, and I hate it just as much when you conservatives do it. Whether that person liked it or not, Bush was her president. And whether you like it or not, Obama is going to be your president. So shut up, grow up, and deal with it like adults, not like the whiny little bitches we all know you conservatives really are.


The Roman Catholic Church - Still Screwing Up!
I personally have this to say to the Rev. Roy Bourgeois. I don’t believe in your god or your religion. But I do very much admire your courage to stand up for womens’ rights in this matter. Because as long as there is there is something in our society that men can do that women are not allowed to do, it diminishes us as a people.

is religious fervency hormonal?
When the service was over, I stopped in the ladies room before driving home and was glad that I had a tampon in my purse from last month. As I took the tampon out of the wrapper, it hit me. I was crying because I had PMS, not because God was speaking to me. Had this happened before? How many times? Had all of my spiritual awakenings been the result of hormone fluctuations? I didn’t want to think about it, but I couldn’t stop myself.

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Same-Sex Marriage and Logical Fallacies  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Over at The Apostate's Chapel there's been a lively discussion over California's Proposition 8. Here are some of the arguments offered up by the opponents of same-sex marriage (these are actual quotes):

  • 98% of the world’s population does not recognize same-gender marriage

  • The majority finds this lifestyle disgusting and we do not want to see it, much less issue special rights because of it.

  • SSM supporters are out of step with fellow Americans.

  • SSM denies all children in those relationships the connection to one of their biological parents. Because of this, I remain unconvinced it is a step forward.

  • People who adopt are not responsible for the failure of the original family. Same sex couples intentionally deny a child one of their biological parents.

Right, so lets address these points. Whether or not most of the world recognizes same-sex marriage is not a valid argument. If 98% of the world thought men were not competent to run their own affairs and needed a guardian, would that not still be a violation of rights? Stick any argument in place of the group in question and the argument stays the same. This is also called argumentum ad populum or appeal to the majority.

Whether or not most people find same-sex marriage disgusting is also not a valid argument. Many people found interracial marriages disgusting. It was only through granting those rights that people came to see that there was nothing unnatural about a relationship between two people of a different race. This is not only argumentum ad populum, but outright bigotry.

Whether or not supporters of same-sex marriage are in the majority of American people is also not a valid argument. While, in many things we live by majority rule, the US Constitution (specifically the Bill of Rights) is in place to guarantee that individual freedoms are not impinged upon. Minority groups should not be oppressed or discriminated against just because the majority of Americans don't like them or don't want to be icked out or don't want to give up their own privilege. It's also, once again, argumentum ad populum.

Same sex couples do not deny children their biological parents any more than opposite-sex parents. This is a perfect solution fallacy and a guilt by association fallacy based on an appeal to emotion. It's also missing the point that we don't deny marriage to couples of the opposite-sex because they also adopt, use artificial insemination, use sperm banks, and use surrogate mothers. If those practices are wrong, then they should be protested and changed. But I don't see same-sex marriage opponents calling for the end of any of these practices.

It's also one of my pet peeves. "Do it for the chiiildren," they yell. Yes, let me tell you about the children.

I know a couple that could not have children naturally. They applied for and were approved to be adoptive parents after going through a rigorous set of classes, tests, and inspections. They agreed to be foster parents so that they wouldn't have to wait as long on the adoption process. They requested two children, preferably siblings and preferably a boy and a girl.

Within weeks they received a call that three siblings were in need of a home and asked whether they would consider adopting all three children. The children came from an abusive home and were removed from their father and mother for their safety. The couple agreed. They took the children in as foster children while the state worked to place the children with any remaining living relative. As it turns out, none of the relatives wanted to raise the children and the couple was given permission to adopt the children.

After a year of monitoring the children in the couple's home, the adoption was finally approved and these children were recognized as their children by the state.

What do you think of this couple? Do you honor their altruism or do you find them repugnant for denying these children a home with their natural parents? Would your opinion change if the couple was in a same-sex relationship instead of an opposite-sex relationship? If so, why? If you again say it's for the children I ask you for evidence that this family is not loving and supportive and that the children will not have a better life with this couple. Evidence to-date supports same-sex families as healthy.

If you find yourself cringing inside at the thought of having same-sex couples marry, perhaps you should question your motives. Are they based on sound arguments and science or are they based on personal beliefs and biases? And ask yourself, do you want your own life ruled by someone else's personal biases or do you want them to give you the same freedoms they enjoy?

After all, look what will happen if gay marriages are made legal in the United States:

Update: Adding a link from Toniya about traditional marriage.

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Name Quiz  

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother/Sister Axe of Enlightened Forgiveness. What's yours?

(via The Greenbelt)

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A Week of Sun November 11 - 17, 2008  

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I was a little bummed that all of the leaves are brown now and falling off the trees. But with the leaves mostly gone I can see the amazing shapes in the branches of the trees. Especially in silhouette, they're striking.

I'm experimenting with new places. The gray days have caused me to experiment with other kinds of shots. I still miss shots because the sun sets so fast now. I found an incredible new location for sunsets not far from work, so hopefully I can catch a few beautiful sunsets in the next couple of weeks.

I also learned that it's not a good idea to run out into a corn field after the rain in heels. It's a good way to ruin a brand new pair of shoes. Note to self: Keep a pair of old tennis shoes in the trunk.

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A Game to Fight World Hunger  

Monday, November 17, 2008

Do you enjoy word games? Is your vocabulary above par? Do you want to improve your vocabulary? Well then Free Rice may be the game for you. The game was invented by John Breen to teach help his son study for his SATs, but with a twist. For every correct answer, 20 grains of rice to feed the hungry, primarily in Bangladesh.

Breen pays for the donation with a rotating ad and his site has led to the distribution of 17 billion grains of rice, or over 850,000 people fed for a day.

So if you have a few free minutes today, give it a try. See how far you can get with your vocabulary. Improve your mind and also do something good for the world.

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This Weeks Reader November 16, 2008  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

These posts were too fun to let them die permanently, so my reader is back. I hope you enjoy the selections.

On the Trail of 2008 TC3

Civil Rights
The Conservative Devaluation of Marriage
Over the past several centuries, Western conceptions of marriage have broadened. These days, the ideals of married life include companionship, shared goals and love - the union of spirits as well as bodies. These are ideals that heterosexual married couples strive to achieve and maintain in their relationships. These are ideals that same-sex couples want to share, but continue to be denied because American society persists in viewing marriage primarily as a sexual union. Yes, sex is an important and enjoyable facet of marriage, but it is only one component of a relationship that encompasses far more than the exchange of bodily heat and fluids. Same-sex couples don’t want to get married to have sex - they’re already doing that (just as most heterosexual couples are, regardless of marital status). Same-sex couples want to get married so that they may enjoy all of the legal, financial, social and interpersonal benefits of marriage that heterosexuals enjoy. I’m still waiting to hear a good reason why those benefits shouldn’t be extended to them.

GM: General Mess
GM’s third quarter results are very telling. They burned through $6.9 billion of cash in the past three months. (Yes I know- you didn’t think we would hear the term “burn rate” again after the dot com bust). At this rate, GM will be technically insolvent in about three months. A $25B loan might float the company for about one year. Then what?

LittleBigPlanet IP-infringing levels being silently deleted
Kotaku is reporting on the clamor that began with the popular LittleBigWorkshop forum and is quickly spreading across forum communities like NeoGAF and GameFAQs. Users are reporting that copyright-infringing levels, even those with no unsuitable content, are being silently deleted. "My level was moderated (read; deleted) and now I can't re-publish," wrote one frustrated gamer. "There was absolutely nothing offensive whatsoever in the level at all and I was given no explanation as to why they moderated it or why they won't even let me republish, even after making changes."

Veterans Day
Today is Veterans Day. It's not Memorial Day. It's not a day to refuse to fight wars - some wars are necessary. What it is is a day to honestly assess the price of the war - any war - to those who fight it and come home, and to promise ourselves to do the right thing by them. Because it is the right thing. Because we owe it to them. Because we sent them into harm's way, and they were harmed, and our contract with them is to take care of them.

The Post-Election Show: Is It Time to Pop the Champagne
Just in case you missed last week’s headlines, the herd announces the election of a new American president. SI asks if Barack Obama’s election will have positive ramifications for freethinkers, humanists and atheists. OG and Chappy speak their minds and SI pulls their ideas together, then ponders whether the election results will change the role of the Religious Right in American politics.

Jealous Gods
To know more about a god, look to its creators. Why are human beings jealous? The answer, as in many things, lies in evolution. If our male ancestors were unconcerned with their mate's fidelity, they might well end up using their time and energy to raise other men's children, rather than propagating their own genes. That variant would soon die out of the gene pool. By contrast, the ancestors who jealously guarded their paternity are the ones whose genes were passed on to us. A similar principle holds for our female ancestors: those who demanded that their mate spend his effort on caring and providing for their own children, rather than the children of another woman, would be far more likely to pass on their genes than those who were indifferent. In both cases, in the brute calculus of reproductive success, jealousy wins and free love loses out.

God on Trial: The Rabbi Speaks

The Hand Scanner Of The Beast
We at Recognition Systems understand that these fads alone may not completely allay the fears of these concerned individuals and would like to offer a solution that completely eliminates any concerns regarding the “mark of the Beast” In the Book of Revelations, chapter 13, verse 16, it is written, “he forced everyone, small and great. rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead”. The Scriptures, regardless of version, consistently refer to the “mark of the Beast” being found or placed only on the RIGHT hand or forehead. Therefore, we suggest that any individual having concerns regarding the “mark of the Beast” be enrolled and use the hand scanner with their LEFT hand turned palm up.

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A Week of Sun November 4 - 10, 2008  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You may have noticed that I've started editing my photos. I'm not doing very much. Occasionally I'm sharpening or boosting the color, but sometimes the color is almost too bright on its own. The pictures from Friday have not been color-edited. The sky really did look like it was on fire.

I've had more people stop me while I'm taking pictures to ask me what I'm taking pictures of or to give advice about the shot. One guy asked for my card and said he'd send me list of locations in this area that are good for sunrise pictures. I gave him my business card, but he never emailed.

I'm hoping that means that he just chickened out (or it's stuck in the spam filter - I keep forgetting to check). I really hope that he's not crazy or anything since he knows my name now, a general idea of where I live, and where I work. I didn't even get his name. But more than likely it's not a big deal.

Now that the sun has moved further South I'm still looking for new spots to take sunrise and sunset pictures. There are a few fields near where I look that might work, but it's getting hard to get set up before the sun has set and I'm not feeling very motivated lately to get up before 6 am.

I also imported all of my pictures from early this year into Flickr and wow, I can really notice the difference with the new camera. I think my shots are more interesting now too. Anyway, I can hope I'm improving. Thanks to everyone who's offered encouragement over the months. It's been a long project and I can't wait to show you my favorite shots at the end of the year.

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Pow'r In The Blood  

Thursday, November 06, 2008

One thing that really struck me when reading a prior Nonbelieving Literati selection The Flight of Peter Fromm is the blood. Throughout Christianity, even back to its Jewish roots, there's the concept of the blood sacrifice as an absolution of sin. These days the idea of blood sacrifice is no longer socially acceptable, so the sacrifice has become more of a symbolic thing.

But, there are still many, many Christian hymns that are, to excuse my wording, blood-drenched. Take for example the hymn that I haven't been able to get out of my head for the past three weeks - Power in the Blood.

There is pow'r, pow'r,
wonder working pow'r
In the blood
of the Lamb;
There is pow'r, pow'r,
wonder working pow'r
In the precious
blood of the Lamb.

It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? But when people sing it do they really think about the words? I mean, do they really imagine power coursing through blood? And what is this power? Well, the second verse gives a clue.

Would be free from
your passion and pride?
There's pow'r in the blood,
pow'r in the blood;
Come for a cleansing
to Calvary's tide?
There's wonderful
power in the blood.

Freedom from passion and pride and all you need to do is cleanse in Calvary's tide. Isn't that sort of saying that you should bathe in blood... metaphorically? Well, except if you'd never heard of Christianity before don't you think the lyrics would sound a little gruesome?

Okay, so maybe that one's not so bad. But then there's Are You Washed in the Blood?.

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

That's pretty much talking about bathing in blood. Eww. Really? Does anyone sing that song anymore. It's not one I remember from Sunday school, but I do remember Cleansing Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

Just reading that makes me feel yucky.

So why are there so many hymns about blood still sung today? I think most people just don't think too much about the lyrics. But in reality there are millions of people every Sunday singing about bathing in blood. Doesn't that seem kind of sick?

I know, I know, it's just supposed to be a metaphor. But is the crucifixion a metaphor too? Isn't it gruesome as well? I mean, why would God plan to sacrifice his son or require any kind of sacrifice anyway? Wasn't that why Cain's sacrifice was refused, because it wasn't blood?

And why do we have to have a sacrifice? Couldn't God have just wiped away our sins on believing in him? And why do we have to believe in him anyway? Isn't that kind of ego maniacal to need your creations to worship you when you won't even acknowledge them?

But singing about blood every week, really? That's just gross.

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Election Highlights  

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yesterday I voted for some Democrats and Republicans and even Independents. The most disturbing thing is that my polling location was the host of this. I really need to go for the laughs next time, but I'm afraid I'd just get pissed off.

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A Week of Sun October 28 - November 3, 2008  

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

These aren't as nice as last week, but they're not bad. The sun is shifting more to the South and before the time change, I was on the road to work during the last phases of the sunrise.

One of my favorite spots to take pictures in the morning is now a construction area. It's where I caught the what I think were the hawks in flight and the fields of gold. Ah well, there have to be more places, right?

The last picture is the moon and Jupiter. You may have to enlarge the picture to see Jupiter, but it's the small point just above the moon.

Original Source

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South Mountains, NC Fall 2008  

Monday, November 03, 2008

After a brief tour of Catawba County, I drove into Burke County to the South Mountains State Park and hiked one the easiest trails, the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail. Much of the hike was straight up steps built into the side of the mountain. But the views were well worth the effort.

This is a nature hike, so there are lots and lots of trees, leaves, rocks, and water. The view from the top was breathtaking.

I really miss the mountains. Next time I visit I'm going to try for one of the scenic overlooks.

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Reading List for October  

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Read in September
The Android's Dream - John Scalzi
Hart & Boot - Tim Pratt
Remembering Hypatia - Brian Trent (Nonbelieving Literati)

Currently Reading
The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science - Natalie Angier
Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography 2nd Edition - David Fearon

Coming Up Next
A Fisherman of the Inland Sea - Ursula K LeGuin
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

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Nonbelieving Literati: Remember Hypatia - Bryan Trent  

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I enjoyed the ideas and the story in this book, but the characters drove me nuts. It's not really the writing that I have a problem with so much, but the notion that people can be characterized as "good" and "evil".

I have a problem with absolute good and evil or good and evil personified. In fiction I'm more lax in my judgments, but I think that Trent could have made a better point if he wouldn't have made his characters so one-sided.

Issues rarely have only two sides. They're too complex to be divided into right and wrong, good and evil. Yes, I can sometimes say with absolute certainty that something that is being done in the world is wrong. But that doesn't make the people behind it evil.

The mob may perform horrific acts when goaded by dishonorable words and actions, but they are in the end still people. They're the people like the ones I interact with everyday. They're people just like me.

Cyril and Peter were like Gargamel and Azrael - cartoon characters, except without the comedy. They had their own dreadful inflictions, but nothing they did was ever remotely portrayed as human.

I realize it's a tried and true tactic to make a person into something alien or hateful in order to dehumanize him or her. When we go to war it's considered patriotic demonize the other side. But rational, intelligent people should be able to look past the devil horns.

Even so, every group to some extent, personifies the people who are outside the group as different whether they're not as smart, not as moral, not as trustworthy, not as charitable, or in some other way not as virtuous or not as good. It's an instinctive urge we all feel.

To give over to that urge is the real tragedy. In the end it's really ideas that are the true enemy.

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